Hundreds of tour companies are based in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and major resorts such as Phuket, and most hotels throughout the country offer tours of one sort or another. Typical excursions available range from one-day city tours covering the main sights to more comprehensive itineraries taking in several towns and locations over several days. Costs are naturally higher than taking public transit, but in some cases – for instance many sights in the Greater Bangkok region – much time and effort simply in getting to the destination may be saved. The drawback of most organized tours is, of course, that there is rarely time to linger.
Booking a Tour
It should be possible to book a tour of Thailand from your home country that will include all travel and accommodations. Such all-inclusive tours typically last between one and two weeks and in clude a few nights in Bangkok followed by excursions to Chiang Mai and other Northern locations, or to a beach resort. Other packages are more specialized, concentrating, say, on trekking in the North (see p448), and may vary from a few days to several weeks in duration. Based in Bangkok, Diethelm Travel and Exo Travel are major operators.
Most regional hotels and many guesthouses offer tours of the surrounding area, or are in close contact with local tour companies. The local TAT office will also be able to recommend reputable tour companies. Day trips to the most popular sights can usually be booked just one day in advance. Tours to more distant sights should nclude arrangements for accommodations, and usually have at least one departure day each week. In most cases, the tour company will pick you up direct from your hotel or guesthouse.
Tour Buses and Boats
Many tour companies use luxury, or “VIP,” coaches, with reclining seats, on-board refreshments, air-conditioning, and a toilet. Air-conditioned minibuses are also common, as are jeeps for gaining access to remote areas. Most vehicles are well maintained and safe.
Boat tours are popular in many resorts, though the majority of operators follow the same routes. Day trips to islands, including opportunities for water sports, are common. Transfers to and from hotels are often part of the deal. Trips to remote islands, usually offering diving facilities on board , can span several days, and accommodation may be provided on the boat itself.
Bilingual guides accompany many tours, especially to popular cultural sights such as Ayutthaya. In Northern Thailand a knowledgeable guide is essential for safety reasons when trekking through the jungle and visiting hill-tribe villages. The quality of guides varies considerably: a listing of reputable ones is published by the Professional Guide Association and available from TAT